The Whole Body Stretching Routine Every Outdoor Athlete Should Do

Woman doing leg swings as a full body stretch

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Whether you identify as a runner, cyclist, or hiker, you probably know you are should incorporate a full-body stretching routine into your day. However, it can be difficult to know which exercises to do. (And, if you didn’t know, it offers an easy excuse to skip.)

Here, we break down eight moves you can do regularly to get your body ready for all your outdoor adventures.

Do I Need to Do Full Body Stretches?

We get it: You’d rather be on the mountain or hitting the trail than folding forward in the parking lot. However, there are a number of benefits of stretching for outdoor athletes.

The Benefits of a Whole Body Stretching Routine for Outdoor Athletes

  1. This increases your range of motion and flexibility. A 2016 study published in Physiotherapy: Theory and Practice found that static stretching can increase your range of motion and increase your flexibility. Another study cites similar results for dynamic stretching done before exercise. This can help you optimize your movement mechanics—and help you avoid stiffness and soreness after outdoor workouts.
  2. This delays potential pain. Incorporating stretching into your cooldown can help minimize the severity of delayed muscle soreness (DOMS), according to recent research.
  3. This can reduce your risk of injury. A 2021 study published in Sports Health found that dynamic stretching helps activate your muscles before exercise, increases the efficiency of your movements, and reduces your risk of injury.

Best Full Body Stretching Routine for Outdoor Athletes

Looking for some inspiration? Try to complete this full-body stretching routine after working out a few days a week.

(Photo: Getty Images)

1. Leg Swing

This pre-workout stretch will help open your hips, loosen your hip and buttock flexors, and increase blood flow to your legs.

How to do it:

  1. Come on stand up. Position your body perpendicular to a wall, chair, or pillar and hold onto it with your right hand.
  2. Lift your left leg and swing it back and forth with your body (like a pendulum). Keep left knee straight. Maintain a gentle bend in your right leg so that it doesn’t lock up.
  3. Keep your core and glutes active. Your body should remain still and upright. Avoid slouching.
  4. Complete 15 leg swings. As you warm up, you can increase your range of motion with each swing.
  5. Switch legs and repeat.
Woman doing downward dog
(Photo: Getty Images)

2. Down Dog

The downward dog is a yoga pose that stretches the entire posterior chain of your body, which includes your hamstrings, glutes, calves, Achilles tendon, lower back, upper back, and shoulders. This movement is especially beneficial for cyclists who ride in an aerodynamic position, as well as runners and climbers who tend to feel tight in the lower body.

How to do it:

  1. Come to table position. Place your hands slightly in front of your shoulders. Your knees should be just below your hips. Curl your toes under your feet.
  2. Extend your fingers. Press your palms firmly to the floor.
  3. Lift your knees off the floor. As you straighten your legs, press your heels down and lift your buttocks in the air. Your body should be folded at the hips into an inverted “V” shape. Make sure your chest is facing your thighs.
  4. Draw your navel toward your spine to engage your core. Keep your eyes on your feet to maintain a neutral position in your neck and spine.
  5. To stretch your Achilles more deeply, bend your knees slightly while pressing your heels down.
  6. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
Man doing the butterfly stretch
(Photo: Getty Images)

3. The Butterfly Stretch

This move stretches the groin, glutes, and adductor muscles along the inner thigh, while opening the hips.

How to do it:

  1. Sit straight on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat.
  2. Place the soles of your feet together in front of your body. Let your knees drop to the sides. Your feet should be diamond shaped.
  3. Keep your core engaged and your back straight. To deepen the stretch, use your elbow to gently press down on the inside of your knee. Hinge forward from your hips.
  4. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
Woman doing full body stretch with knees to chest
(Photo: Getty Images)

4. Knee to Chest Stretch

If you’re a cyclist, runner, or just spend most of your day hunched over a screen (guilty!), this stretch will provide some relief to your lower back.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back.
  2. Bend your knees. Bring them to your chest.
  3. Use your arms to hug your knees in place. For a deeper stretch, squeeze harder.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds.
Woman doing full body stretching
(Photo: Photo by Andrew Clark; Dress by Calia)

5. Buttocks/Piriformis Stretch

This is one of my favorite stretches for outdoor athletes because it stretches your glutes and deep piriformis muscles, which tend to get tight with repetitive motions.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Lift your left foot off the floor. Make a 90 degree angle with your feet. Your shins should be parallel to the floor. Hold the leg in this position.
  3. Bend your right leg. Rest your right ankle on your left thigh. Turn your right hip out.
  4. While holding this position, grasp the back of your left thigh with one or both hands. Pull your legs toward your chest. For a deeper stretch, press your right thigh away from your body with your right hand while hugging your left leg.
  5. Hold for 30 seconds before switching sides.

6. IT Band Stretch

If you are an outdoor athlete, you most likely have a tight IT band. This post-workout stretch not only helps massage this connective tissue, it also stretches the hamstrings, lower back muscles, calves, and buttocks.

How to do it:

  1. Stand up straight. Cross your right leg over your left leg. Your right heel and ankle should be placed on the outside of your left foot.
  2. Keep your knees straight. Hinge at your hips and reach toward your toes.
  3. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Stand up and change legs.
Woman doing standing quad stretch
(Photo: Getty Images)

7. Standing Quad Stretch

This static stretch targets your quads and hip flexors, while improving your balance.

How to do it:

  1. Stand straight with good posture.
  2. Lift your right foot off the ground. Bend your knees. Pull your heel back (towards your buttocks) with your right hand.
  3. Try to keep your knees parallel. Don’t let your left knee slide to the side.
  4. Hold for 20 seconds.
  5. Press your pelvis forward. Lean slightly with your body. You should feel a stretch in your hip flexors.
  6. Hold for 20 seconds before switching sides.

8. Chest Stretch

The muscles in your upper body may need to be stretched, especially if you are a skier, swimmer or hiker. This move provides relief to the pectoral muscles in your chest and the anterior deltoid in front of your shoulders.

How to do it:

  1. Face the opened door. Raise your arms up and to the sides. Your body should form a T shape.
  2. Step one foot forward through the doorway. Your straightened arm should catch the side of the door frame.
  3. Keep your gaze forward and your back straight.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch your front leg and repeat.

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